The Real Reason Why Your Online Business Is Not Making Progress

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I’ve been running my online store course for several years now and it still amazes me how much I’m learning about human psychology while teaching the class.

Create a Profitable Online StoreBecause the students who sign up for my course are an eclectic bunch, I’ve found that I often have to adjust my teaching approach depending on the personality of the student.

And after witnessing hundreds of students go through the videos and answering thousands of emails, I’ve started to notice a few patterns between those who make rapid progress and those who get stuck often.

As with any self paced class, a person’s chances of success are heavily dependent on how well they can learn and apply the material and how well they can focus on the important tasks at hand.

While I would love to boast a 100% success rate for my course, I’ve found that many new entrepreneurs often start off on the wrong foot or make simple mistakes early on.

Fortunately, most of these things can be easily rectified and I thought it would be interesting to point out a few pitfalls that I see quite often.

PITFALL #1: You Work On The Easy Stuff First Or The Things That Don’t Matter

hamster wheel

Here’s a fun fact. This is just a rough estimate but I would say that a third of the students who sign up for my class rush to do research on incorporating their business or establishing an LLC before even knowing exactly what they want to sell.

And after that, they spend another good chunk of time worrying about the different licenses and permits that they “might” have to obtain for their ecommerce shop. A small subset of these students then go off and ask me questions about what expenses they can deduct on their tax return.

Steve, if I buy an iPad, can I expense it on my business?

None of this stuff really matters early on! You can incorporate or get your LLC at any time. All of the information on permits and other legalities that you need to obtain are pretty straightforward and easy to find.

And learning all of the tax implications is great but it’s not going to help you make money!

All of this stuff is trivial and easy to accomplish which is why most people work on these things first. They want to delude themselves into thinking they are making progress when in fact they are just dragging their feet.

Tackle the hard problems first! If you can’t overcome the difficult steps, then you won’t even have to bother with the easy stuff.

PITFALL #2: You Are Too Stingy With Your Business

pinching pennies

What!?! Are you suggesting that I spend $25 a month on a fully hosted shopping cart? Didn’t you say that there are other students in the class running their shops for just $5 a month?

Everyone has different capabilities. There are some people who are adept with computers and learning new skills. Heck, there are many students in my class who joined without knowing a lick of HTML/PHP/CSS and now they are managing their own online stores all by themselves.

If you have no desire to host your own site or if you are extremely tech averse, it doesn’t make sense to go this route because you’ll struggle and never make consistent progress. If you lack certain skills, it sometimes makes sense to pay for services to compensate for what you are not good at so you can focus on your strengths.

If you are cringing at paying $25 a month for your online business, then chances are you don’t have the right mindset. Think about it this way. Starting a traditional brick and mortar store could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. And yet you are worried about $25 a month? That’s ridiculous.

Even though I’ve been known to do a lot of things by myself, I still pay for plenty of expensive services that help me automate and further my business. For example…

It takes money to make money and you should not go into a business without being willing to spend some cash to do things right. Nothing is cheaper than running an online business. Don’t be overly frugal!

PITFALL #3: You Believe Too Much Of What You Read Online


Steve, I read on the warrior forums the other day that guest posting is dead. How am I going to get backlinks now?

Steve, I read somewhere that you can’t make money with Adwords so should I even bother running a campaign?

Now I’m not going to say that everything you read online is garbage, but most of it is. By the time you sift through all of the crap to get to the good stuff, you’ve probably wasted a huge amount of your time.

There’s nothing wrong with reading blogs or browsing the internet marketing forums but take everything you read with a grain of salt, especially the stuff on search engine optimization. Honestly, the only people who know exactly what is going on with SEO are Google search engine engineers. Most of what you read online is just speculation.

If you want to make better use of your time, you shouldn’t learn from random anonymous people on the Internet or even your peers.

You should study from the experts. These days, I tend to spend most of my time hanging out with people who are doing much better than I am, people who I am humbled to be around.

It’s easy to spend your time and make friends with people on the forums or people at your own level, but you won’t learn very much this way.

Once I started talking to other ecommerce store owners and bloggers who were 10X more successful than myself, I started doing a lot better.

PITFALL #4: You Are Waiting Too Long To Launch

Blue Pill Red Pill

I am constantly producing new content for my course so there’s always more to learn. But this constant flow of new information can be a double edged sword for some students.

In fact, there are some people in my class who have been there for a very long time and still haven’t launched their business even though…

  • They have selected their niche
  • They have their domain
  • They have their suppliers lined up
  • They have their website pretty much ready to go

A lot of us are perfectionists and I know it can be tough to finally launch your business and put yourself out there. But you need to try not to over focus on the tiny details. No matter how hard you work to make things perfect, something is going to go wrong.

So instead of focusing on tiny little details like how big your logo looks and whether your product verbiage is perfect, just get the thing out there and start gathering data.

Once you have real customer data, you’ll get a better handle on where you should be spending your time.


Even though I tend to see the same mistakes being made over and over, it’s really been a blast running my online store course and watching my students evolve into small lifestyle business owners.

As I gather more data and interact with more students, I’m getting better and better at dealing with the different issues at hand.
Anyways, I hope this post helps some of you who are on the sidelines waiting to take the leap.

photo credit: kirainet Larry He’s So Fine cellar_door_films sualk61

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23 thoughts on “The Real Reason Why Your Online Business Is Not Making Progress”

  1. Simon says:

    Its an eye-opening post Steve, its always wonderful to glean insights from people deep in the trenches doing it and helping others do it for themselves. I can totally relate to number 4, failing to launch…its scary to say the least…so many things go wrong but over time I have realized that the best way to find out is to just go ahead and dive in. I think the principle is best summed up in the military wisdom of the German general, Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf: “no plan survives contact with the enemy”
    So go ahead and launch and learn along the way.

    1. Steve C says:

      Thanks Simon,
      I think #4 is probably the most common so you aren’t alone. Ironically, for me I was in such a hurry to launch that a lot of things were busted when I did.

  2. Becky says:

    Great article, very relevant to my situation now. Thank you so much.

    1. Steve C says:

      Thanks Becky. What is your situation now?:)

  3. Carole says:

    Very good points. I recently launched, and I kept thinking I needed to get the site perfect before sending announcement emails to bloggers and interior designers. Finally realized that if I don’t get the word out and get some buzz generated, it won’t matter how perfect the site looks if no one knows about it.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hi Carole,
      That is a beautiful looking site you got there. Good luck with your sales!

  4. Wendy says:

    There are definitely many, many pitfalls out there. More than I ever thought. It took me a month to decide to go with BigCommerce, then I was surprised by how many website template issues that I still had to research (which is still on-going), photos have taken me a lot longer than I thought, then family obligations and a full time job leave me little time to focus on my store. The easiest thing to do is research and buy inventory and shipping/packing items online on my lunch break. Is that what I should be focusing on? No. But it makes me FEEL like I’m making progress. My site is for anyone who wants to look. It’s a little messed up right now but I hope to have it straightened out soon.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Wendy,

      I think your site is almost ready to go. Just a few more little things and then we can proceed with the critique.

      1. Wendy says:

        My to-do list:
        Figure out how to get rid of the column on the right.
        Take better photos and more of them.
        Improve descriptions.
        Weigh and measure items.
        Add “not for children under 5” warning.
        Add more blog posts with craft ideas.
        Finally move on to SEO and advertising.

        My sister and her kids are visiting at the end of the month and we are going to have a decorating party and then they can post reviews. I’m looking forward to some product feedback and it should make a good blog post too.

  5. Barbara says:

    Ha! I am in the middle of Pitfall #4! I want you to critique my store but no way am I doing that without going over it with a fine tooth comb first! It is slowing me down but I am also learning…. I just need to take the plunge already. Thanks for pointing out these pitfalls.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Barbara,
      I think this is the first time that I’ve seen your site. Looks pretty good so far! Looking forward to taking a closer look.

    2. Wendy says:

      Cute idea, Barbara. I don’t think I even knew what a cupcake wrap was until I saw your site. Another idea for you, cupcake “picks”, those things you stick in a cupcake. I just found some stars on a stick cupcake picks that I am going to use for my site as fairy wands. 🙂

  6. Marin says:

    Great post Steve! I know this definitely applies to us. We have been in the course for years and only just launched!! I found myself constantly doing so many things but never really getting anywhere or making any real progress.

    1. Steve C says:

      Has it been years? Perhaps we didn’t start communicating as often till recently because you hadn’t launched yet:) Congrats!

  7. Ophelie says:

    The people wondering whether they can expense an iPad are probably the same people who submit a vacation request on their first day at a new job… and that’s likely why they’ll stay in that job for a long, long time!
    I’m not saying everyone needs to be deeply passionate about the niche sites they’re developing, but apathy and procrastination are, to me, a sure sign that a project is going to fail. I see it in myself, too: when I’m finding a million excuses not to work on something, it’s because I don’t really have that passionate spark for my current project.

    1. Steve C says:

      To a certain extent, I agree. But I’ve seen 180 degree turnarounds as well with students in my class. Sometimes, people just need an extra nudge or a dose of inspiration.

  8. Megan says:

    Important post. Until recently, I’ve been one of those frugal peeps that doesn’t get involved in something unless it was free, or very, very cheap. I finally caved when I signed up for my cart service for my website at $30 a month. Considering everything the service provides, you’re right, it is nothing compared to what the costs of running an actual brick-and-mortar store would be, and it saves me a lot of time form having to do EVERYTHING myself, even if I am fairly well-versed in some of the areas the service covers.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Megan,

      I’ve fallen into this trap many times myself:) I’m glad you’ve finally gotten over this hump.

  9. Diana says:

    Hi, Steve,

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading it! In my opinion, pitfall n#4 is very common, step farward and start actually doing it, it’s hard, eh… Maybe your readers find useful this website, I just bumped into, gives you the product launching toolkit.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hi Diana,

      Pitfall #4 is the most challenging of all of the pitfalls for the students in my class. But it’s amazing how much more fun it is after you get over the hump.

  10. Altair Goh says:

    All these pitfall stories are quite reflective of ourselves, especially those on the path of being an online business owner like myself. Steve, thanks for being honest and critical with your comments, as your advice imparts wisdom and encouragement to people like me. 🙂

    What I learnt today, “It takes money to make money and you should not go into a business without being willing to spend some cash to do things right.”

  11. John Milburn says:

    You should add PITFALL #5 Starting an online business just selling what would be nice and small for postage and taking two years to fall flat on your face with just 15 sales. Marketing scares me and I still do not know where to start. Is there any way out of the hole I am digging?


    The pitfall number one was the main reason it took me long time to make money online,i was always doing the wrong things and things that didn´t matter much and i ended wasting my time,now days i start with important things first and my result are improving,and on pitfall #3 i was like that too but it change when i got an email from a very known IM guru telling me SEO was dead and he wanted me to buy facebook course because it was the ”thing” in the same evening send me another message telling me that facebook was dead i should do SEO in the new way since then i don’t trust much on what people they say in forums and emails i have few people and few blogs that i get my information from.

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